J. Michael Straczynski
Last month, Tim Marchman let loose with a scathing article in The Wall Street Journal criticizing the superhero-comics industry that was the talk of the internet for a couple of days and kicked up a few Twitterstorms, most notably with writer J. Michael Straczynski. But then people pretty much moved on.
The thing is, Marchman was supposed to be writing a review of Christopher Irving and Seth Kushner’s book Leaping Tall Buildings, a collection of interviews with, and photographs of, famous comics creators. You can get a taste of their work on their Graphic NYC blog, and as one who has been following them for a while, I can tell you, it’s awesome.
Although Marchman’s article appeared in the Bookshelf section of the Journal, he mentioned the book only in passing — and while his comments were positive, he billed Irving as the editor, not the writer, and skipped Kushner altogether. Now Kushner has posted a response to the piece, titled Who Reviews the Reviewer? at the Trip City site. Actually, Kushner says straight out that he isn’t reviewing the reviewer, but he does have some things to say about the article:
“The first issues of Before Watchmen will be published next month. Among the writers working on it is former He-Man scripter J. Michael Straczynski, who once penned a comic in which Spider-Man sold his marriage to the devil. (This is the rough equivalent of having Z-movie director Uwe Boll film a studio-funded prequel to Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver.)”
– Tim Marchman, in a broadside to the superhero-comics industry that began as a nominal review for The Wall Street Journal of Leaping Tall Buildings. Straczynski wasn’t the only comics creator targeted, however: Marchman also took aim at Brian Michael Bendis, Joe Quesada, Grant Morrison and Dan DiDio, characterizing them as “the men most responsible for the failure of the big publishers to take advantage of the public’s obvious fascination with men in capes.”
“Your behavior was dickish. I became a better writer after He-Man. You will always be a dick.”
– J. Michael Straczynski, issuing his “final word” in the ensuing Twitter exchange with Marchman that began with JMS confronting the reviewer on “a cheap shot.” “You had to go back to 1984 to insult me? Really?” Straczynski wrote. “And ['One More Day'] was Marvel’s decision not my call.”
To celebrate its Superman Facebook page surpassing 2 million “likes,” DC Comics has revealed two more pages from the second volume of Superman: Earth One, the bestselling 2010 graphic novel by J. Michael Straczynski and Shane Davis. Set for release Nov. 6, the original graphic novel will introduce a new Parasite as the primary antagonist, and focus on the Man of Steel attempting to determine his place in the world — all while the world does the same.
“How far can he push his power before he becomes something other than what he intended to become?” Straczynski said in January. “In the midst of all this Clark gets his first apartment, becoming entangled with a beautiful woman next door, Lois starts trying to figure out what it is about Clark that doesn’t add up, and a new and terrifyingly strong version of the Parasite is born from what was previously a serial killer … and now Superman has to confront someone who is not only as strong as he is, but can drain his power completely. In the aftermath of one of the massive battles that threatens to tear apart Metropolis, Clark for the first time feels what it’s like to be normal, to be mortal, to be vulnerable … to be us. In the end, Volume Two is about power: its use and abuse, and its place in the world, to be used for good or for evil.”
Before Wednesday morning’s big news, I was all ready to write about the wish-fulfillment aspects of DC’s reprint program. Maybe next week.
Now, though, we’ve got Before Watchmen*, seven miniseries and a one-shot in the Seven Soldiers mode, and no doubt collection-ready. Please pardon my cynicism, but with all due respect to the impressive roster of professionals involved, this could have easily been subtitled We’re Back For More Cash.
To be clear, I understand DC wanting to make money off its intellectual property. A while ago I argued that one purpose of the current Shade miniseries is to fill another slot on bookshelves next to the rest of James Robinson’s Starman collections. Starman was one of the rare series where one writer introduced a character (Jack Knight) and took him through a series of adventures, until that character reached the natural endpoint of his life’s particular phase. Neil Gaiman’s Sandman preceded it, and Garth Ennis’ Hitman followed. (Working with writers David Goyer and Geoff Johns, Robinson tied Starman into the JSA revival as well.)
Addressing one of the more frequent reactions to his involvement in DC Comics’ newly announced Before Watchmen project, J. Michael Straczynski has tackled the question, “How would you feel if Babylon 5 was being done without your permission?” His answer is, well, a little complicated.
The writer, who’s penning Dr. Manhattan and Nite Owl for the sprawling prequel to the acclaimed 1986 miniseries by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, drew some criticism yesterday when he told Comic Book Resources, “A lot of folks feel that these characters shouldn’t be touched by anyone other than Alan, and while that’s absolutely understandable on an emotional level, it’s deeply flawed on a logical level. Based on durability and recognition, one could make the argument that Superman is the greatest comics character ever created. But neither Alan nor anyone else has ever suggested that no one other than Shuster and Siegel should ever be allowed to write Superman. Alan didn’t pass on being brought on to write Swamp Thing, a seminal comics character created by Len Wein, and he did a terrific job. He didn’t say ‘No, no, I can’t, that’s Len’s character.’ Nor should he have.”
That of course led more than a few people to ask how Straczynski, who created the 1990s space opera Babylon 5, would feel if someone else were to develop a sequel, or prequel — “Babylon 4″? — to the television series (a revival has been long hoped for by fans, but the writer denied rumors as recently as August that he’s in negotiations with Warner Bros.). To answer the question, which he characterizes as “How would you feel if Babylon 5 was being done without your permission?,” Straczynski took to his Facebook page last night, writing, “It’s a fair question, and it needs to be fairly answered … but it has to be an honest comparison, apples to apples, not apples to pomegranates.”
Along with the official announcement of Before Watchmen, its long-rumored prequels to the seminal 1986 miniseries by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, DC Comics trotted out several of the creators involved to talk about the legacy of the original work, their approach to the new project, what they expect from initial reactions — and, of course, Moore’s objections to the undertaking.
Here’s a selection of some of the more interesting quotes:
J. Michael Straczynski, who’s working with Adam Hughes on Dr. Manhattan, and Andy and Joe Kubert on Nite Owl: “Ever since Dan DiDio was handed the reins (along with Jim Lee) over at DC, he’s been making bold, innovative moves that might have scared the hell out of anyone else. At a time in the industry when big events tend to be ‘Okay, we had Team A fight Team B last year, so this year we’re gonna have Team B fight team C!’ Dan has chosen to revitalize lines, reinvent worlds and come at Watchmen head-on. It was, I think, about two years ago that he first mentioned that he was considering the idea, and he’s to be commended for fighting to make this happen.”
Brian Azzarello, who’s collaborating with Lee Bermejo on Rorschach, and J.G. Jones on Comedian: “I think the gut reaction is going to be, ‘Why?’ But then when the actual books come out, the answer will be, ‘Oh, that’s why.’ ”
Following years of rumors, DC Comics announced this morning it’s revisiting the characters introduced by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons in the seminal 1986 miniseries Watchmen with seven inter-connected prequels collectively titled … Before Watchmen. What’s more, the project now has the blessing of Gibbons, who as recently as last summer seemed resistant to the idea.
“The original series of Watchmen is the complete story that Alan Moore and I wanted to tell,” the artist said in a statement. “However, I appreciate DC’s reasons for this initiative and the wish of the artists and writers involved to pay tribute to our work. May these new additions have the success they desire.”
Moore, however, isn’t as generous, describing the prequels as “completely shameless.” “I tend to take this latest development as a kind of eager confirmation that they are still apparently dependent on ideas that I had 25 years ago,” he told The New York Times.
The writer, who stopped working for DC in 1989 following disputes about Watchmen royalties and a proposed age-rating system, revealed in July 2010 that the publisher had at last offered to return the rights to his most famous creation, if he “would agree to some dopey prequels and sequels.”
“So I just told them that if they said that 10 years ago, when I asked them for that, then yeah it might have worked,” he said at the time. “But these days I don’t want Watchmen back. Certainly, I don’t want it back under those kinds of terms.”
Before we jump into 2012, I have one last bit of business to take care of: toting up my 2011 predictions, and offering a set for the new year.
1. The Green Lantern movie. Last year I predicted that GL would be “more lucrative than Captain America, not as much as Thor. It ended up making $116 million domestically ($219 million worldwide), well behind Cap’s $176 million ($368M globally) and Thor’s $181 million ($449M globally). Also, it wasn’t as good. I liked it well enough (and from what I hear I may like the Blu-Ray version more), but apparently I was in the minority.
2. Superman and Wonder Woman after JMS. I just had questions for this entry: will Roberson and Barrows stay on Superman? (No.) Will Diana keep the jacket and pants? (No jacket, pants optional.) Finally, I asked “[w]ill sales improve once ‘Grounded’ ends?” Guess that depends on how you define “ends,” because “Grounded” closed out that Superman series; and the next issue of Superman was a New-52 No. 1 which sold almost 100,000 more copies than its predecessor. We may never know what might have happened to Superman without the New 52, but probably not that.
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Note: The artwork originally accompanying this post has been removed following a cease-and-desist letter from DC Entertainment’s legal affairs department.
Any doubts regarding the accuracy of reports about DC Comics’ long-rumored plans for Watchmen prequels may have eroded over the weekend with the emergence of character art by J.G. Jones and Joe Kubert and Andy Kubert.
Bleeding Cool characterizes the illustrations of Nite Owl and The Comedian as cover art for the projects, purportedly being assembled under the code name “Panic Room,” but considering the characters’ names are written on the pages, it seems more likely they’re concept designs.
The four prequels to the seminal 1986 miniseries by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons are said to also involve Darwyn Cooke, J. Michael Straczynski, John Higgins and even Gibbons himself. Cooke, however, seemed to dismiss reports he was working on one of the miniseries, telling CBR News recently, “Ah, get out, man. That’s like three years old.”
Remember that unpublished cover Geof Darrow drew for J. Michael Straczynski’s “Grounded” arc on Superman that we posted the other day? Remember Darrow saying to Inkstuds’ Robin McConnell that it never ran as a cover and that “it’ll never see the light of day” despite his “really nice guy” editor’s assurances to the contrary? Good news, Darrow fans: Both Darrow and DC confirm that the finished cover will appear in Superman: Grounded Vol. 2, on sale this Wednesday, Dec. 7. The crazy cat lady will get her time in the sun at last!
Bleeding Cool contends it’s been “informed quite conclusively from a reliable source” at the publisher that the artist is among the A-list talent involved in the secretive project, which reportedly will use key characters from the seminal 1986 miniseries by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons.
Other previously mentioned creators include Darwyn Cooke, J. Michael Straczynski, J.G. Jones, John Higgins and even Gibbons himself.
Murmurs of DC’s desire for a Watchmen follow-up gained steam in 2010 after the departure of President Paul Levitz, believed to be the last in-house obstacle to using the Moore-Gibbons characters. The writer seemed to confirm as much last year when he revealed the publisher finally had offered to return the rights to the property — copyright and royalty issues form the roots of his legendary feud with DC — in exchange for a concession: that Moore “agree to some dopey prequels and sequels.” He refused.
Then-newly minted Co-Publishers Dan DiDio and Jim Lee said at the time that DC “would only revisit these iconic characters if the creative vision of any proposed new stories matched the quality set by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons nearly 25 years ago, and our first discussion on any of this would naturally be with the creators themselves.”
As recently as August, Gibbons addressed perennial rumors of a sequel and the possibility of the characters being transplanted into the DC Universe, telling Comic Book Resources, “It’s not something that I’d personally like to see happen. [...] What I would say is, intrinsic to the whole idea of Watchmen is that they existed in a world that was the way it was because of their existence. And I think to transplant them into another world actually removes a huge part of what is the essence of Watchmen.”
Just ahead of its “DC All Access: Superman” panel at New York Comic Con, DC Comics debuted the cover of the second volume of Superman: Earth One, the bestselling 2010 graphic novel by J. Michael Straczynski and Shane Davis. Presumably the publisher will announce a tentative release date during the presentation.
See the full cover below, and check back with Comic Book Resources for a report from “DC All Access: Superman.”
When J. Michael Straczynski was still the writer of Wonder Woman, he approached Colleen Doran about developing a new, “fantasy-oriented” look for her. He’s given Doran permission to share what she came up with, which she’s done on her blog.
She clarifies a couple of things in the comments section of her post. First, that she wasn’t hired to draw the actual comic; just to design the look. But more importantly, that this look would’ve been for a story after the one in which Wonder Woman wore Jim Lee’s controversial redesign.
Despite her depictions on promotional materials and the covers for the debut issues of Justice League and her own title, it appears as if Wonder Woman will once again don star-spangled shorts come DC Comics’ September relaunch.
The evidence emerged this morning with the announcement of the DC Comics: The New 52 preview book that will be released next Wednesday in comic shops and at Comic-Con International in San Diego. In the upper left-hand corner of the cover is a slightly modified version of Cliff Chiang’s art for Wonder Woman #1, with the Amazon Princess now sporting shorts for the first time in more than a year — when Jim Lee’s divisive costume redesign was introduced as part of J. Michael Straczynski’s short-lived new direction for the character.
Wonder Woman #1, by Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang, will be released on Sept. 21.
Although it seems like DC’s big relaunch announcement came out an eternity ago, it actually took the publisher less than two weeks to roll out the 52 titles and their creative teams for the big relaunch/reboot/overhaul coming in September. Now that the cats are out of their respective bags, I thought I’d see where various creators and characters will land after the reboot.
So I went back through DC’s August solicitations to see who was writing or drawing what, and tried to map everyone to their post-relaunch project — if they had one. However, looking at DC’s August solicitations, there seem to be several fill-in issues, so where appropriate I tried to map the most recent ongoing creative teams to their new projects (for instance, I consider Gail Simone and Jesus Saiz the regular creative team for Birds of Prey, even if they aren’t doing the last two issues before September hits). Keep in mind that I just went through the ongoing series and skipped over all the miniseries … of which there are a lot, what with Flashpoint winding up in August.
It’s also worth noting that although several creators didn’t appear in the “big 52″ announcements, that doesn’t mean their tenure with DC is necessarily over — some, like Frazer Irving, have said they have future projects that haven’t been announced. So I tried to note where creators have talked publicly about their post-relaunch plans with DC (or lack thereof, as the case may be). The same could probably be said for some of DC’s characters as well. Or, as Gail Simone said on Twitter: “Again, September is NOT THE END. There’s still plans for characters that we haven’t seen yet.”
So let’s get to it ….